Earlier this week, my therapist noted that it has been three years since we first met.
Her name was on a small strip of paper given to me by the midwife’s office, with a list of about 10 names. The slip of paper was between a third and a quarter of a sheet. I wondered how often they printed it, whether they used a paper cutter or whether the distribution was less frequent, perfect for scissors.
I wondered about the other women who received the other slips of paper. Was there anyone else that day, there for a loss follow up? Was there anyone else who was spending her nights sobbing, quietly so as not to wake her toddler, thinking of the sibling he wouldn’t meet?
I wondered if the names on the list were gathered with care?
There were asterisks next to the ones that, in addition to providing talk therapy, could also prescribe medications. I knew the pain I had needed medication, and after doing some research, chose the one therapist that had published a book. I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford to see her much longer, but that’s another story. She’s been amazing. She has helped me process the loss of a baby.
But I knew that something was wrong from the start. It was hard to tell close friends and family, but I was trying to wish away the feeling of dread, a knot in my stomach that told me something was wrong. Call it intuition, maybe.
An initial ultrasound at my first prenatal visit, at eight weeks, confirmed the pregnancy was viable. Because I would soon turn 35, the midwife suggested we consider an early screening for chromosomal abnormalities, which would consist of an ultrasound and blood work.
We had the ultrasound at the hospital where we planned to have the baby. As I put my head back on the shiny white paper, my stomach flipped. The technician barely spoke as she moved the cold gel across my belly. Then, she handed me a little print out and went to get the doctor. He was kind and compassionate and suggested we speak to the genetic counsellor; suggested we might want to have diagnostic testing that day.
The genetic counsellor was Jennifer. She spent hours with us, explaining the chromosomal possibilities and the information she had, which was that — given my age and the large abnormalities seen on the ultrasound — we had a one in three chance of learning that our baby had a chromosomal defect. We had the CVS testing that day.
I spent the next 48 hours wailing and praying for a miscarriage. What I got was a call that my baby had Trisomy 18, likely wouldn’t make it to term, and if she were to be born, she would most likely not have a first birthday.
I wanted to try to have that baby, to hold her and say goodbye. But how would I explain to my toddler that the baby growing in mama’s belly would be born dying? What would our life be like if, by some very small chance, she lived beyond a year? We wouldn’t have been able to afford her medical care. I wouldn’t have been able to be a mother to my son if I had a daughter who couldn’t live independently. I couldn’t introduce her to a life of suffering. I couldn’t handle giving birth knowing I may soon bury my baby.